How To Find Validation Prospects.
You've been told that you need to validate your idea. You understand the purpose of validation, you know what assumptions you need to test and you've written your script. Now you're trying to find people to talk to that are outside of your immediate friends and family circle.
Here's some suggestions we've found work, split into B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business).
Business to Consumer:
1. Your current networks
- Make a list of all the people you know who fit your target market. Send them a message (fb, text, email, whatever is appropriate) with something along the lines of:
I'm touching base because I’m working on an idea/project/startup to help [founders become better at turning their ideas into plans they can execute].
I'm currently talking to founders who are in their first couple of years starting out, to find out more about their planning process so I can figure if it's a problem worth solving. I was wondering I could shout you a coffee and pick your brain sometime this week?”
- When they come back with a response (either yes or no), always ask if they can put you in touch with a couple of other people who fit your target market.
2. The Facebook post for casting your net wider
- Find Facebook groups where your target market hang out, for example:
If it's mum's you're targeting, you could try 'mumpreneur' groups.
- Think about an easy question you can ask to catch the attention of people who might be interested in the problem you’re trying to solve. For example (validating a new productivity tool):
- When people comment on your post ask them if you can have a chat to them in person (on Skype).
Tip: Respond to their comment on your message to let them know that you'll private message them, otherwise they might not see it e.g. ”@name awesome thanks, I’ve just PM’d you”
Private message example:
“Hey [x], thanks a lot for your response. It would be great to have a chat to find out a bit more about [x]. Are you happy for me to give you a call at a time that suits you?”
Tip: Select the people who are most excited about what you are doing, or most frustrated by the problem you are wanting to solve – these are your low hanging fruit. Through this process you will get a better understanding of your target niche.
3. The survey
Similar to the Facebook post, you can create a short and sweet survey (3 questions max) that you can share with all your friends and everywhere where you think your target market might hang out.
After the three questions, ask them to leave their contact details (email and/or phone number) if they’re happy to be contacted to find out more information. Then follow up to arrange a time to do a customer interview.
Tools to create surveys:
Ask your friends to share your survey with their friends too - you want it to reach as many people as possible.
Business to Business:
You can still do all of the above strategies for B2B (because at the end of the day you’re still dealing with people). People who work in businesses still hang out on Facebook, and you might be surprised by what your friends can come through with.
Here are a few more options:
1. Email/LinkedIn message
Research the person you’re emailing to work out a compelling hook. The more personal you can make the message the better. Have they recently moved into a role, or do they have a view on something that you can use as leverage to get them excited about the prospect of being involved in what you’re doing? Often people share their email addresses on their LinkedIn profiles. Here's an example message:
Hi..…., my name is [.............] and I'm just reaching out to you because I’m working on a high-growth product to [problem you're solving]. I wanted to reach out because of they work you’ve been doing on [...............]. I'd love to share more about what I'm working on, and was wondering if I could call you or catch up over coffee? Thank you, really appreciate your time.
- Follow up - if people don’t respond it's okay to follow up. You can’t be coy if you want to build a high growth startup.
- Keep a build/test/iterate mindset. Keep testing until you find what works, and then keep doing that.
This just means calling people who you haven't had any contact with before.
There's a lot of advice on how to master the practice of cold calling.
We found this one helpful:
There are a lot of ways for you to get in front of your target market, so don't let that hold you up. The sooner you start, the faster you'll get good at it.
Also don't get overwhelmed by the options, just start with the one that feels most manageable and once you've depleted that option move onto another.
Check out some of our other resources covering market validation to make sure that you're getting the most out of your interviews.